A CONMAN whose bogus airline collapsed leaving a mountain of debt is avoiding deportation by refusing to reveal his nationality.
Convicted fraudster Victor Bassey – who was jailed for two years for setting up a fake airline – has been detained by the UK Border Agency while officials make plans to expel him.
But Bassey is causing a headache for the authorities by staying silent on his background – despite previously claiming to be Nigerian.
It is also believed the 51- year-old is trying to be released from the detention centre in the South and return to the North-East.
Despite the delay, the efforts to deport Bassey were last night welcomed by his victims, who lost tens of thousands of pounds through Excelsis Aviation.
Jim Knight, who is owed at least £15,000 after being hired by Bassey as a public relations expert, said “good riddance”
after being told the fraudster was facing deportation.
He added: “He completely overturned a lot of people’s lives.”
Vicky Wiltshire, who was hired by Bassey as his personal assistant, said: “I’ll be glad to see the back of him.
“He messed with people’s lives and I just hope he isn’t able to do it again.”
Bassey was jailed for two years in December 2010 after pleading guilty to three charges of fraudulent trading, four charges of obtaining services dishonestly and a single charge of possessing articles for use in fraud.
Judge George Moorhouse told the businessman he was a compulsive liar who lived in a fantasy world.
The court heard how Bassey set up Excelsis in June 2009, promising to restore the air link between Durham Tees Valley Airport and London Heathrow.
A team of experienced airline managers was recruited, but Bassey’s boasts turned out to be a flight of fancy.
The court was told that Bassey used fake documents to suggest he had access to millions of dollars from US banks.
Far from being a high-flying businessman, he lived in a terraced house in Middlesbrough.
Michael Janes, director of Tees Valley web design company, E-Strands Ltd, which was never paid after creating the Excelsis website, confirmed the fraudster had been in touch with the Middlesbrough church where the two men met.
Mr Janes said: “I’ve heard he’s looking for three references and a place to stay so he can be released on bail from the detention centre.
“He’s also refusing to say where he’s from, so the authorities don’t know where to send him to – it seems he’s found a loophole.”
It is understood that Bassey was released from prison late last year and was immediately detained by the Border Agency officers.
Last night, officials confirmed that the fraudster was being held while plans to deport him were finalised.
A spokesman said: “We will always seek to remove any foreign national convicted of a serious crime and anyone from outside the European Economic Area, who is sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, is automatically considered for deportation on completion of their sentence.”
Bassey’s exploits have been recounted in a new book called Airline Scams and Scandals by Edward Pinnegar.